Wednesday, May 16, 2007

sciatica got you down?

I've had sciatica for the last two years after herniating a disc in my low back during a snowboarding accident. At times it has been bad enough that I could hardly move without excruciating pain all the way down my leg. I contemplated surgery but have held out in favor of alternative healing methods. I've had a number of friends who've undergone back surgery and almost all of them eventually regretted it.

If you are in the sciatica boat then this post is for you. A friend recently pinged me with a request to give some advice to one of their friends who was diagnosed with sciatica. Since I seem to meet people almost weekly who have had this painful condition I thought I'd post my response in the hope that it helps a few people out there.

I've got four things which have helped.

  1. walk a lot. If I take at least one 45 minute walk each day I feel a lot better. It gets blood moving in the lower back area which will loosen it up and will help deliver nutrients to the injured area to enable the body to heal itself.
  2. traction. Get an inversion table. Start out by hanging 3/4 upside down for a few minutes and gradually build up to 10 minutes twice per day upside down. Again, helps blood flow to the area, and also creates space between the lumbar discs. My sciatica is due to herniation at L5, so this helps greatly.
  3. yoga. Your friend could do pilates instead, but some kind of movement based yoga through a series of postures helps to create flexibility and stability in areas where it's been lost. The lack of flexibility in those areas contributed to my injury.
  4. IMS. This doesn't work for everyone but worked for me. It involves deep needle therapy along the back and legs. This resets the muscle-nerve interaction. Sometimes sciatica gets into a nasty feedback loop where the nerve fires due to trauma and becomes hypersensitive. It then continues to fire from the slightest irritation. I'm currently getting IMS treatments at the Centeno Schulz Pain Clinic in Westminister, Colorado.

Net is that I was practically unable to walk last May and this year I'm training for triathlons. The non-surgical route does take some time though and will go through lots of ups and downs, so he has to be patient with it. Good Luck!


Anonymous said...


We have just started a website just for this kind of thing at Do you mind posting this in a "success summary" there, or give me permission to write one (and give you credit)? Like you said, your experience is very beneficial for people with the same condition.


Tim Wolters said...


feel free to repost on your site and link back to this post.


Rob said...

For me it was an epidural, and then after about a year (when the epi started to wear off), 600 mg a day of coated aspirin. One year of that, and the pain had subsided to the point where no meds were required.

Now, daily brisk walking and stomach / lower back exercises and I'm almost 100%.

The epi and the aspirin were a great tag team.

Robert said...

I also chose to follow the non surgical route. I found this post when searching, it's been two years in about 3 weeks. 18 months ago I could barely walk, 3 months ago I ran 5 miles for the first time. It's slow, but thanks for letting me know that the non surgical route takes time. Starting to worry that if it's been 2 years, it's as good as it'll get (ie, still have pain ... although it's mostly throbbing, lost the shootnig pain).

Hoping that I can really snowboard this year for the first time in 2 years.

Anonymous said...

I used to have a terrible case of sciatica. I couldn't pin point how I got it, but I'm suspecting it may have been a snowboarding fall, although I started feeling pain during the summer time, months later.

I went to a chiropractor and accupuncturist, but neither helped me. I started lifting weights, and now the pain disappeared after 3 long excruciating years.

I worked mainly my upper body and core exercises with heavy weights. I did not do squats or any exercise that put extreme pressure on my lower back.

I've been lifting for almost 3 years now.

PhytoGuy said...

My wife has had issues with her sciatica as well as a herniated L-4 & L-5 vertebrae ever since the birth of our second daughter. The pain in her lower back was to the point that she couldn't sleep and was looking to get my back operated on to "relieve" the problem. After some research with other doctors and chiropractors we decided to take a naturopathic approach. we both started consuming an unusual and very healthy whole food drink called "FrequenSea" that is totally organic and vegan friendly. The real driving ingredient(s) in FrequenSea that I find compelling are the huge amounts of natural anti-inflammatories in the 220 different species of marine phytoplankton. Yes - microscopic sea weed! These single celled plant organisms, upon consuming them, has helped my wife regain a healthy lifestyle again at only 2 ounces a day. I know it's not medicine, but it sure helps her feel better when nothing else could. I am so convinced of FrequeSea and it's ability to honor and edify our bodies that I now have a website telling its story by the man who discovered it's incredible healthy properties - Tom Harper. Listen to Tom's story here -->

lillian said...

I got a lot of great sciatica information from these sites:
Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

I have sciatica problem for 12 months now. The past time was the hardest time in my life; I have never been in so much pain before. I decided that I want to’ fix it’’ naturally, no unnecessary surgeries. First thing was to loose some weight! 2 stones was enough to start getting better, then exercising with McKenzie method which is ‘’extension’’ of spine, swimming and now gym –mainly cardio exercises. I am back on my feet - not pain free but able to do things that I couldn’t do it before. I realised that I can not live without exercise and I am very determine to get my sciatic pain sorted ASAP.I know it’s long and painful recovery but optimism is what is keeping me going. Good luck to everyone who is dealing with sciatica!

Guy Ralstin said...

I went to a new chiropractor and it has been amazing for me. I feel well enough to start working out again. :)

toppe said...

I am posting this as someone who has had the entire roller coaster of physical symptoms and emotional/psychological stresses that come with sciatica.

One thing I can say is that: icing, ibuprofen, eat well ( i avoid stress-y things like caffiene and sugar), excercise starting with simple stretches and gentle calisthenics and I had plenty of trial/error to tailor my regiment despite with my PT told me. I try not to eat when I'm anxious or sitting around..and when at home and awake rest in a zero gravity chair.

These things, plus patience and trying not to spend too much time in your head are the best things I can suggest and wish I was hearing when I was early on in the process. To whomever is reading this: You might be "giving up" some time (i "lost" one year to it)..but i can say confidently that I am on the road to recovery with no surgery and other than the zero gravity chair (i use The Perfect Chair at work and at home) I have no magic bullets or devices.

I am been seeing an Osteopath almost every week for a year and this has been important as well. Very gentle simple stretching and pressure point stuff. No doubt you might (like myself) enter these situations with your guards up as you want to protect your body from further pain. But you have to find a professional you can trust.

I DID have to stop taking ibuprofen for a bit as it was upsetting my stomach but have found I don't NEED it anymore. Feel like taking a victory lap just for that.

Lastly, its been important for me to learn what are symptoms that become worse and what are symptoms that flare up and go away on their own. It's empowering as I have discovered that most of my symptoms DO go away eventually and do not get worse and knowing this has helped me keep my mind from racing. And I think the mind racing and the related stress adds to things. My 2 cents.

I hope I have given someone some peace today. You CAN make it through it. If you're not in constant extreme pain and you can find some patterns to your symptoms--hopefully like me you will be able to begin to understand your condition and tailor your recovery.

I still have a ways to go..I am not doing all the things I used to or wanted to..but I am seeing myself heal and I trust that by continuing to watch myself and be patient I will be back to "normal". I hope you do too.

Tim Wolters said...

Awesome comment Toppe.

It's been almost 2 years now (knock on wood) since I've had sciatica. Mine was originally due to a herniated disc from a snowboard fall. Mild herniations will fix themselves over time which is one of the reasons I chose the surgical alternative path.

My sciatica took almost two years to get under control and in the first year there were days when I could hardly walk, or if I sat in a chair for more than 15 minutes I was in fairly intense pain when I stood up. The main treatments that worked for me were Yoga and IMS. I've worked Yoga into nearly a daily routine to create more movement and separation in the lumbar joints. I also found that if I pushed the yoga two far, especially with some of the torso twisting poses it would re-aggravate, so go slow with this and don't try to over do even though other people in the class are doing inverted poses. I went through four multiple session phases of the IMS treatment and each phase required fewer treatments to get the sciatica back under control.

Keep experimenting to find what works for you and keep hope.


Anonymous said...

Good to know that Yoga works. I think I'll give it a try and see how it goes for me.

Kirsten said...

Dear Tim

A few years ago my husband went through his first bout of sciatica and we tried going to all the doctors and seeing what they could offer. We were not impressed with their offers of pills or surgery. Surgery just seems to dangerous. It took a long time to see any recovery in him but it did happen. He loves rock climbing and found that it helped build the strength in his leg back up. He was hardly ever taking the pills the doc prescribed and was noticing improvement in the sensation in his foot. It took forever but was working. At the start of summer he had the other side go, he woke up in that horrendous pain again and was back on the pills. He didn't want to mess about with the doctors again as he couldn't see how they could do more this time then last. He did think of trying something that has had fab results but its not sound medical advice. I have written an article about what he tried and why we think it works. I thought you might like to have a read at

I can't say its advice but might be something you would want to look into.

I hope your recovery is fast and that you suffer no set backs as my husband did. He is likely to have to live with this the rest of his life as the under lying problem is with arthritis in the spine and I don't know that there is any cure for spinal arthritis.

Chiropractic Care & Sports Rehab of Clifton Park said...

Other solutions I don't see mentioned include flexion-distraction and McKenzie. As I chiropractor I am a big supporter of manipulation as well and when these approaches fail, epidural steroid injection (ESI) is a fair next step. However after resolution, the 2 most important things to achieve longstanding relief are spinal stability and neutral spine movement patterns. See these back safe exercises

Rose said...

Hi there sounds like you have had a rough time of it. I hope things are better a great way of looking at sciatica pain is through and Dr Sarno's insights about oxygen deprivation to the sciatic nerve.

For anyone suffering it really is worth a look!

Dr. Visentin, D.C. said...

Thanks for sharing this article.

Anonymous said...


Do you mind sharing some of the Yoga exercises that are effective for you? Are their any links I can reference? I greatly appreciate it.

Dr Linda said...

Hii name is DR.Linda and I like your post about sciatica. Sciatica is characterised by pain along the course of either of the sciatic nerves.Sometimes the appearance of pain is preceded by unpleasant sensations in the leg or lumbar region, the patients complaining that the leg feels heavy, that it tires easily. The most popular cure for sciatica is application of heat - hot sand or hot water bottles. But there are some solution to completely Cure sciatica..please read at my blog 'cure for sciatica'

Academy Chiro and Laser said...

great blog....Sciatica didn't seem to make a lot of sense to me in the beginning.. But really, though bed rest may be a very good idea when you are experiencing an acute sciatica flare up, when going on too long it'll do you more harm than good. It is best to get back to your regular routine as soon as you can (of course avoiding what got you here in the first place). Once your worst pain has simmered down you should seriously consider different types ...

Sciatica at Dana Point

Chiropractic care Littleton said...

Really .Sciatica is very good treatment of Chiropractic.
thanks for sharing.

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Back Pain said...

I suffered sciatica for years and what help me to overcome this pain was Manual manipulation or better know as massage therapy. Done to address the right indications by appropriately trained health professionals.

Charles Goodwin said...

I am glad you held out on surgery. There are many non invasive treatments that will alleviate sciatica pain. Sciatica is a symptom and not a clinical diagnosis. I have been researching sciatica and have found many things that will help anyone get relief from sciatica.

Seoexpert97 said...

Very good information dear...real friendship can not be separated with diff. cultures and norms but fake ones are easy to shatter... back pain

Anonymous said...

This is the first time I visit this site. I try to follow something here and I see that I worked mainly my upper body and core exercises with heavy weights. I did not do squats or any exercise that put extreme pressure on my lower back. Thanks.

Sciatica Treatment

Michael Simpson said...

My wife started suffering from sciatic nerve pain due an herniated disc (L4/L5). This was a number of years ago, but through research, trial and error, we realized two things. A good exercise and stretching program does work and we have also had great success with manipulation and acupuncture. Those of you out there suffering from sciatica should really consider that.

Sciatica Stretches said...

I learned from what you have suffered because I've had experienced sciatica last 6 years ago. However, I'm grateful enough that I was completely healed. Thanks for your great share.

Anonymous said...

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I also chose to follow the non surgical route. I found this post when searching, it's been two years in about 3 weeks. 18 months ago I could barely walk, 3 months ago I ran 5 miles for the first time. It's slow, but thanks for letting me know that the non surgical route takes time.

leehuck said...

I have read some sciatica treatment in the web and found out treatment alternatives are the use of heat therapy, application of cold compress, acupuncture therapy, performing regular yoga exercises and all other natural therapies.

lee - Occupational Therapy Assistant Work

Anonymous said...

When the spine has mechanical imbalance, you will experience restrictions in the movement of the facet joint. As the muscles tighten, nerve entrapment may occur. The therapies of the chiropractor will target the piriformis muscles in order to restore balance. The pressure is released and the sciatic nerve will be relieved.
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mackenzie said...

This is a great post. I didn't know hanging upside down could help with sciatica. Thanks for the great information!

Anonymous said...

There are several techniques that can be used such as Graston, instrument-assisted, non-thrusting, and thrusting techniques. It will also involve alignments, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, stretching, and trigger point therapies.
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Anonymous said...

E² Acupuncture Science
Any skeletal muscle pain can be easily cured by Tradition Chinese Medicine (TCM) Acupuncture.

For 4,610 years (2600BC), Yellow Explorer's time. Until now acupuncturist continues this ancient TCM practice to eliminating all diseases (trying). All the main hospitals of China use this to treat most patients as busy as KFC fast food.

Acupuncture treatment will has needling sensation effect for first few days. This called “DE Qi/Chi” (Arrival of Oxy’Blood---needling sensation). it must be achieved so that Yin & Yang(Negative and Positive energy) can be balanced and body’s immune system has strengthens, else diseases can’t be eliminated. The fundamental manipulating techniques are Lifting and thrusting & Twirling or rotating. TCM Acupuncture therapeutic works and easily cures muscular pain if apply correctly.

Beside sciatica(more trials needed), all others skeletal muscle pains are not recorded in TCM text therefore no “Acupoints(???)” can be provided to any acupuncturist as that they need to advancing the practice and pick the right AcuPoints.

Be respectful, Acupuncture is not a device or voodoo magic, it does not release any things (certainly not endorphins, inflammation, etc, ..) or anti-inflammatory agents. Please do not mislead. It is a marvelous 4,610+ years old, micro surgical tool, etc, .

“An acupuncture is bad science”. not much can be expected in 4,610 years ago, good science & resources only available from 1850AD such great scientists: Heinrich Hertz (1887) & Albert Einstein (1905).
Since 2005 E² Acupuncture has added a new chapter of modem acupuncture science. which has scientific proven, formulated, verified and even dispelling the amount of excessive Yins/-Toxin can be calculated. Treatment uses single new save disposal and painless micro-needle insertion to proper “Acupoints(??)” and has no side effects, least risk mainly due to accident same as any treatments. No Lifting and thrusting & Twirling or rotating manipulating needed so that patient cans comfortably having a cup of tea/coffee.

Acupuncturist must fully understood the Five Elements(五行), Five Changes(五变) and Five Shu/Transports(五输/通) Yin & Yang balance principles. if any one treated by 5 X 30 minutes in 2 weeks and has no relief by 4 weeks, please discontinues and shop around.

I have my Plantar fasciitis cured twice by my own EE Acupuncture, last cured was on march/2011 since then pain remains free and no sign of coming back. (EE: Eliminates Excessive Yins/-Toxin/Electrons)

check/click on my site (you can send to any one of my site)
or more help below sites

Sciatica update (loc: buttock & 5 inches down, 2 spots).
treated on 30th/10/2011.
12 days after and feedback:

"Been feeling the slight tenderness in the area where the needle were inserted. Felt my legs is tired but not the numbness." (50% pain relief, 100% no numbness)

5 weeks Later (email on 4th/11/2011):
"Seems to be fine, slight tenderness but definitely better than before" (now 90% cure)

why pain relief if it can be so easily cured.
and the cost of curing it is so much less then a pair of PF shoes and not to mention others, .


Pamela Grey said...

Hi, your post is well needed information for me right now. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with sciatica during my first pregnancy. I was in so much literally every day. I just figured that maybe it was normal because it's a lot of stress on the body when you have to carry extra weight, but I did go to the doctor and I was set up with some sciatica treatments, which helped a lot. After I had my baby, I did begin yoga, which was also a major pain reliever. I continue to do that and I'm with child right now, virtually sciatica free!!

Great post!

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sciatic nerve pain said...

used to have a terrible case of sciatica. I couldn't pin point how I got it, but I'm suspecting it may have been a snowboarding fall, although I started feeling pain during the summer time, months later.

I went to a chiropractor and accupuncturist, but neither helped me. I started lifting weights, and now the pain disappeared after 3 long excruciating years.

I worked mainly my upper body and core exercises with heavy weights. I did not do squats or any exercise that put extreme pressure on my sciatic nerve.

I've been lifting for almost 2 years now.

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GRose said...

I am amazed at all the comments on this post. It really hits a nerve so to speak and sorry for the pun.

I too have recovered from severe sciatica and lower back pain! It was a long journey myself and I document the 'best' bits of my back pain relief story here:

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